January regrets banished by ambitious Portsmouth recruitment

Kal Naismith’s goalkeeping turn provided the impromptu comic relief to dilute the simmering disgruntlement.

The timely distraction escalated into post-match chatter clamouring to pinpoint the last occasion an outfield player inherited the Pompey gloves.

Ben Thompson and Tom Naylor were recruited by Kenny Jackett during the summer transfer window. Picture: Joe Pepler

The mood, however, would not be swept aside following this initial burst of basking in absurdity.

An underwhelmingly ineffective January 2018 transfer window had infuriated the Fratton faithful, with League One play-off positions within both sight and reason.

The Blues faced Doncaster 72 hours later, sharing a 2-2 draw, while handing debuts to newcomers Anton Walkes and Stephen Henderson.

Henderson, however, sustained a season-ending thigh injury and Naismith took over as keeper for the final five minutes.

That night, the Victory Lounge hosted the London Pompey Supporters’ Club dinner, with Naismith coincidentally among the many club representatives.

Yet, as the evening gathered pace, Mark Catlin’s time was largely spent fielding questions on the club’s transfer approach from dissatisfied fans.

Interest in Naismith becoming the first player in 19 years to achieve his feat had soon subsided.

Criticism was warranted over the transfer window inactivity, with flames of discontent fanned by Michael Eisner’s ill-conceived unpalatably-positive post on Twitter.

Now the club must be praised following impressive dealings in the most recent window.

Kenny Jackett recruited 10 players since mid-May. Four arrived during the three-week period which served solely as loan business.

Loanees David Wheeler, Ben Thompson, Andre Green and Joe Mason represent a mixture of players whose careers are on the rise or previously recruited in £1m-plus moves.

It remains to be seen how they fare at Fratton Park, yet they symbolise promotion aspirations which now cannot be doubted.

The January transfer window’s failure to replace the injured Danny Rose can be accused of depriving the Blues of a play-off spot.

In contrast, today’s squad is the strongest since they last existed in the Championship – outstandingly assembled by Jackett and aided by Catlin, inset, and the Tornante ownership.

Having on occasions been criticised for a player budget seemingly enhanced little from the League Two days, despite the Eisner family’s arrival, it would be logical to conclude it has now been ramped up considerably.

In January, Wolves youngsters Connor Ronan and Sylvain Deslandes were recruited, boasting six Football League starts between them.

Ronan has ability, yet struggled for physicality, while Jackett couldn’t identify a consistent role.

As for left-back Deslandes, he failed to impress team-mates on the training pitch – while was withdrawn in both first-team appearances.

The other two arrivals during that period were Walkes, who Pompey gave a Football League debut to, and Henderson, a fine goalkeeper whose career has been dogged by injury.

Bafflingly, not the experienced central midfielder which was a necessity. Now Jackett has recruited Championship performers Tom Naylor and Ben Thompson for his engine room. Rose, whose absence was so pivotal last season, is fit again yet cannot make the squad, such is its strength.

Under Paul Cook, defensive prospects Aaron Simpson and Dominic Hyam were recruited on loan, yet never featured. Although he got it right with Matt Clarke.

Cole Kpekawa and Alex Wynter proved substandard during loan spells under Andy Awford, with neither now in the Football League.

Contrast that to the current bout of strengthening.

On Tuesday night, Jackett made 10 changes for the Checkatrade Trophy and defeated Gillingham 4-0, with Green, Wheeler and Mason all featuring.

Brett Pitman, last season’s 25-goal striker, also opened his account and is today likely to earn a league recall.

Elsewhere, Dion Donohue is feeling his way back to fitness, while Louis Dennis awaits a debut.

After January’s recruitment regret, the summer has emphatically proven a success – now triumph is required on the pitch.

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